There are people on Instagram who get paid to go on holiday, employ professional photographers and receive endless freebies. Here one blogger tells us how she makes a living.
Is it terrible to admit that I get so many free gifts, I’m starting to feel trapped? That every day, as the parcels and “Sorry we missed you” slips pile up on my doorstep, my stress levels rise?
As a blogger, I know that inside every package will be a note: “Please post a picture of this gift including our hashtag.” But I’m not going to post a shot of every crap shoe that arrives; I’ve got a website to run. So you’re stuck: return the gifts and spend hours in the post office and a fortune on postage. Don’t return them – and fail to plug that rubbish product – and you’ll get a bad rep.
There is so much people don’t understand about being a professional Instagrammer. Like the fact that a lot of the cash you earn actually comes through your blog. Instagram is a shop window – the more of a celebrity you become, the more brands will want to work with you – but on your blog you can link directly to products and make 7-10% commission on sales.
I know bloggers who make $1,000 a month this way; I’ve heard that a few top names rake in more like $360,000 a year. They buy a dress from Asos or even a Gucci handbag – ensuring it is available to buy online – then just post the picture and wait for the commission to roll in.
Another revenue stream is projects. Often brands will approach, say, five bloggers and commission a package of tweets, blogs and Instagrams to launch around the same time; subliminally it feels like a trend. A package might be worth $1,500 but rates vary: some get $50 a post, $500 is more usual and for a few top bloggers the sky’s the limit. Electronics, tech brands and alcohol pay well but beauty is the holy grail; you often hear of $20,000 contracts.
In general, you need 10,000 followers to make a living on Instagram; if you’re mid-ranking but successful, you can hope to earn $4,000 a month from projects. But unless you are at the top, you won’t get rich (I made $2,000 profit in my first year and around $10,000 now) because the costs can be extortionate. I spend at least $1,000 a month on professional photography. People say they want realistic photographs, but an iPhone snap taken by your boyfriend is not going to cut it if you’re working with brands. There also needs to be variety in your feed, which requires planning. You look at the week ahead and think, “Do I need more interiors?” You buy tons of flowers because they look good. That casual shot of your bedside table probably took half an hour to set up, with all the crap that was actually on it pushed out of frame.
If you love fashion and interiors, blogging is lovely work if you can get it, but only the grafters succeed. You can’t keep your readers interested without good, regular content, so taking time off is not an option. I do get a bit tense if I haven’t posted on Instagram for a day. Even when you’re having brunch with friends, you think, “I’ve got that bag with me, I could photograph it next to that coffee.” By the time you’ve styled the shot, the food is cold. Sunshine and beautiful views are brilliant for Instagram, too, so lots of bloggers even bring professional photographers on holiday. Or if it’s a press trip, smart PRs will have one on hand.
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Press trips are a real perk of the job – you’re flown to stunning locations all expenses paid – but there’s still pressure. Bloggers are expected to post pictures constantly; journalists on the trips can be quite snobby about that. They’ll say, “Why are you taking a picture of the food, can’t you just eat?” then humblebrag about how terrible they are on social media. But I’m just doing my job – I don’t tell them how to do theirs.
Blogging is generally friendly and professional but a few very young bloggers can be quite awkward, not listening when others speak or being aloof or timid. You have to remember how young they are, that they have this weird job that revolves around them, that they have never worked in an office. Also, they’ve grown up on social media. Some of them don’t know how to interact face to face.
For some bloggers, the pressure to look good is immense – they worry constantly about their looks and what they eat. And anyone who says they don’t use the Facetune app is lying. It’s like having Photoshop on your phone and some use it to an alarming extent. No serious blogger would use Instagram’s filters, either – apps such as Snapseed and VSCO Cam are far more subtle.
Elements of blogging are just like editorial in fashion magazines – you go to press days, take pictures of a lovely skirt because you want to make sure your readers saw it first on your blog. Good bloggers develop a voice and a point of view, only post things they genuinely like and are selective about who they work with. Others won’t do anything unless money changes hands.
The lines are so blurred between advertising and editorial on Instagram. There’s an unspoken rule that you should use the hastag #ad or #sc (sponsored content) for paid posts but many don’t. I’m not sure readers really know what’s going on. If there’s one rule to remember, it’s never to compare your life with the life a blogger presents – it looks much more glamorous than it really is. Like a photoshoot in a fashion magazine, it’s all a bit of a lie and should be taken with a pinch of salt.
If you want to learn more about growing your brand on IG, I highly recommend the following book:
Zombie advocate. Coffee maven. Total student. Professional troublemaker. Reader. Typical internet trailblazer. Analyst.